Tel Aviv rabinate David Hamelech Boulevard.
(photo credit: ORI~/WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
The central obstacle blocking appointments to the Supreme Rabbinical Court has been surprisingly lifted as Rabbi Uriel Lavi, the leading national- religious candidate, accepted an appointment to the regional rabbinical court in Jerusalem and withdrew his candidacy for the Supreme Court.
Lavi, formerly the head of the Safed Rabbinical Court, was appointed by Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef to the position last week, despite the deep aversion of the haredi rabbinical leadership to Lavi, owing to a groundbreaking but controversial ruling he made last year releasing a woman from her marriage to her husband who had been in a coma for seven years.
The Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee convened in September and appointed 22 new judges to the 12 regional rabbinical courts, but held no discussions on appointments to the Supreme Rabbinical Court to which no permanent appointees have been made in several years.
The reason no deliberations were held on appointments to the Supreme Rabbinical Court was that Lavi was strongly backed by liberal and national-religious members of the 10-person Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee, and the bloc of four women on the committee threatened to veto all appointments if Lavi was not appointed to the Supreme Court.
The the haredi bloc similarly refused to agree to any appointments if Lavi was included.
There are seven empty seats on the Supreme Rabbinical Court, leading to a massive backlog of cases, although temporary appointments have helped ease this burden.
Lavi recently moved to Jerusalem from Safed for personal reasons. The Jerusalem Post has learned that the rabbi believed it to be in his best interests to accept the position offered him by Yosef to be head of one of the four judicial panels in the Jerusalem Rabbinical Court instead of continuing to fight for an appointment to the Supreme Rabbinical Court.
Lavi has now withdrawn his candidacy for the Supreme Rabbinical Court. According to a report on the Kikar Shabbat haredi news website, he agreed with Yosef not to stand for the Supreme Rabbinical Court for another three years.
Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, director of the Rabbinical Courts Administration, told the Post on Wednesday that the Rabbinical Judges Appointments Committee is now likely to convene by the end of November in order to deliberate on, and possibly appoint, candidates for the Supreme Rabbinical Court.
Dr. Rachel Levmore, a rabbinical courts advocate and a member of the appointments committee, was highly critical of the circumstances in which Lavi decided to withdraw his candidacy for appointment to the Supreme Rabbinical Court.
“Rabbi Uriel Lavi was originally a front-runner for the appointment to the Supreme Rabbinical Court due to recognition of his talent in the utilization of his breadth of Torah knowledge in a creative manner to resolve difficult cases of get-refusal and classic agunot,” she told the Post.
Levmore said that the resistance to his appointment to the Supreme Rabbinical Court sprang from “reactionary forces to his courageous resolution” of the controversial aguna case.
“The inability of the haredi world to come to terms with the need to confront today’s reality, as Rabbi Lavi does, brought forth the use of political power to wage a battle against his appointment.
“It is unfortunate for the citizens of Israel – and indeed world Jewry – that a rabbinical judge with proven potential to return the path of halachic (Jewish law) rulings to their original humane approach, was transformed into a pawn of political maneuvering by the ultra-Orthodox parties in a position of power and thus shunted aside,” Levmore said.